Robin Scott-Elliot: How Corden curse stops Britain's girls making a splash

View From The Sofa: Olympic Dreams, BBC
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The Independent Online

It is currently impossible to watch TV for any length of time without the ubiquitous James Corden looming into shot. The only broadcast that he has not featured in of late is the election debate, but there is still one to go and Smithy knows better than anyone how to build a better Britain having overseen Pam and Mick's conservatory construction project.

He appeared in Olympic Dreams last week because he is to be the centrepiece of the opening ceremony as well as the Games mascot and the Olympic Village before being converted into affordable homes for local people once the rest of the world has gone home (volcanoes allowing). He's not actually, not yet anyway, though popping up in a programme about synchronised swimming might seem even more unlikely.

He is, it turned out, part of the reason why Britain struggles to make an impact in the sport. In this country synchronised swimming is not taken seriously – like Craig Bellamy's analysis of the dollarisation of Central America, Alan Shearer's analysis on Match of the Day and Boris Johnson. Because we laugh at it, the powers that be in synchro apparently always mark our girls down, or so the programme seemed to imply. So Corden splashing around in a swimsuit and make-up is grist to those who want to wipe the fixed grin off the faces of Team GB.

But the bubbly pairing of Jenna Randall and Olivia Allison plugged on, and even broke into the world top 10 by the end of the half hour, having survived a bomb scare, performed in front of a group of bemused soldiers and slapped on enough make-up to make Quentin Crisp look fresh faced while all the time smiling in and out of the water, and under it too.

Whether they are any good or not, who knows, but what Olympic Dreams made plain is the commitment that anyone who wants to make it anywhere near London (Watford?) requires. Peter Reed and Andy Triggs Hodge already have one Olympic gold on their mantelpieces from the coxless four in Beijing, although judging by the chaotic nature of Triggs Hodge's life his is probably propping up the wobbly leg under the kitchen table.

They made an odd couple; Reed, meticulous in everything he did, was filmed by a giggling Triggs Hodge as he unpacked in yet another hotel room. So organised was Reed that he may well have had days of the week pants. If Triggs Hodge did he would have ended up with five Sundays, a Thursday, two sloganed, "you don't have to be mad to work here but it helps" and one thong.

Reed celebrated his birthday in training camp somewhere bleak and wet in Austria, as he had done for the previous few years. His present was to be shouted at by Jurgen Grobler, the mastermind behind Britain's success on the water and a man, with his villainous East German accent, who was born to play a Bond baddie, although since the latest film has been put on hold he has clearly taken the sensible career path.

The other athlete on the programme was Zoe Smith, a slender schoolgirl from east London who lifts weights. Her gymnastics coach was struck by her strength and suggested she switch sports – now she's on course to compete in 2012. Hers was the most diverting of the story strands thanks to her wide-eyed enthusiasm and struggles with pre-event nerves as she begins to make a name for herself in the frankly scary world of women's weightlifting, and all without a sign of Corden. As yet.